Killzone Mercenary Review for PlayStation Vita
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita.
If you’ve been sitting on the fence waiting for a decent shooter to land on the PlayStation Vita, then wait no more! Killzone: Mercenary is a game that brings all of the things we look for in a first-person shooter and wraps it up in a neat little portable package for you to take on a trip, on the subway, or in a cozy corner of your domicile. Developed by Guerilla Games’ sister studio, Guerilla Cambridge, Killzone: Mercenary comes complete with a compelling single-player campaign and a well-rounded multiplayer experience, this is most definitely the top killer app for the Vita in 2013!
Killzone: Mercenary is set just after the events of the first Killzone and sets you in the shoes of Arran Danner, a mercenary who’s more concerned with a payday than which side he’s fighting on. You’ll fight through a series of nine single-player missions, earning cash by completing objectives and making kills. This cash in turn allows you to purchase additional weapons, armor, and equipment from an arms store known as Blackjack. Blackjack operates through a number of caches littered about the levels allowing you to frequently change up your weapons and armor on the fly, or just replenish your ammo and equipment stocks should you run low.
Gameplay combines traditional first-person shooter tactics with stealth to create a well-rounded experience for the player. Stealth can be used for the prudent player who prefers sticking to the shadows and eliminating enemies one-by-one, or brute force can be applied for the run-and-gun gamer if they so choose. The penalty is, of course, that reinforcements often come in droves with an AI that does a pretty good job of working to flank your position and overrun you before you know it. Action can be frantic at times, and it does occasionally put the Vita under load with some framerate stutter, but gameplay overall is solid, well-balanced, and exciting.
A good shooter requires controls that make sense as well, and Guerilla Cambridge delivers with a scheme that’s a perfect fit for the Vita. The dual analog sticks supply the traditional run-and-gun movements, with the action buttons allowing you to perform the typical actions such as crouching, running, using items, and performing melee attacks. Melee combat is further enhanced by the touchscreen, with prompts to swipe your finger across to cut people down, or intimidate them into giving you intel. Likewise, the touch interface is used heavily in the menus as well as the Blackjack shop, providing an intuitive interface with some interactivity to boot. Motion sensor aiming, which leverages the accelerometers and gyros in the Vita allow you to tilt and pivot the handheld for aiming if you so desire, but for the more traditional gamer, the analog sticks work perfectly, with the sensitivity being able to be adjusted to the user’s likes.
Multiplayer is also available in the game with three modes: Mercenary Warfare, Guerilla Warfare, and Warzone. Mercenary Warfare is essentially a lone wolf-style free-for-all match where you’re killing everyone else to obtain the high score, while Guerilla Warfare is more of a team deathmatch game type. Warzone carries a lot more variety and is definitely the most fun out of the three game types. In this mode, you’ll compete through five different objective matches. Once complete, player’s scores are added up, with the top dogs earning the spoils. While there was no apparent lag while playing online, there were some fairly frequent connection drops. This can be especially frustrating if you’re playing through a long Warzone session, and get a DC when you’re almost at the end; especially if you’re contending for the lead.
Aside from the aforementioned occasional stutter, Killzone: Mercenary looks absolutely fantastic, and displays some of the best use of lighting, smoke, and fire effects that I’ve seen in a Vita title. Broad sweeping vistas that are part of the background quickly come to life as you glide across the cityscape to a broken down building, or zip line from one to the other. Complimenting these beautiful graphics is a superb sound. The soundtrack is composed by Walter Mair (whose credits include contributing to the upcoming Killzone: Shadowfall, and a good chunk of the Grand Theft Auto games) does a phenomenal job of creating a moody, dark sound with a mix of conventional instruments and digital sound without falling into the “action movie rut” of orchestra led by rock guitars that’s become the trend in shooters as of late.
Killzone: Mercenary is a first-person shooter above the other entries on the PlayStation Vita. I was able to blow through the campaign in about five hours, which puts it a little short of what we’ve seen on shorter campaigns from the home console, and much shorter than Uncharted: Golden Abyss. But KZ:M is most definitely a step in the right direction, and something that FPS fans can sink their teeth into.
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